Archive for January 2021

Dividing the Dump   4 comments

What’s your best technique for working around backstory dumps?

Info Dumping and How to Avoid it | Paid Author

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Don’t Bore Your Audience

Our characters come with histories. Shane had 27 years of living and five years of trauma and war stories before he returned to Emmaus. Peter didn’t just one day wake up a teenage alcoholic. There were 17 years of scar tissue built up before he turned that corner. And some of that history is critical to understanding what motivates the character. But to an outsider — your reading audience — a big dump at the beginning of the story is just boring.

I must have tried to read both Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit two dozen times and always stopped before the end of the backstory dump that both books start with. It wasn’t until the first LOTR movie came out that I could read the book. The backstory was hardly touched on by the movie, so I actually found the information interesting because it explained so much about the characters who I had previously become familiar with. Even great writers with enormous followings make this mistake, but I try not to do things that cause me not to read a book because I figure my audience will have the same problem.

How Do I Avoid It?

My best technique for working around backstory dumps is to write them. The written backstory is for my benefit. I suspect all written backstories are for the benefit of the writer and they make it into the published book because the writer can’t separate himself from his audience. With that in mind, I drag the backstory into another file and keep it for future use. At no point do I use it as a mega dump, dropping the whole landfill on the reader in a “Hey, this is the whole story” moment. Instead, I dole it out slowly mixed in with the current story.

Even in an apocalyptic where there’s intense action most of the time, there will be times when the characters slow down and have a moment to think. In Objects in View, Shane starts the novel in a bunker waiting out the nuclear rain and he has nothing to do but think. During those pages, I throw in some elements of his backstory (liberally mixed with his current-situation thoughts in a kind of stream-of-conscious manner) because that’s when real people think about their pasts. Throughout the series, there are similar small backstory dumps — one or two sentences, a paragraph or two, sometimes stories told by another character — that inform the reader of some of the history that brought Shane to the point he is at now. In Winter’s Reckoning, readers finally learn the full story of the most traumatizing event in his life. We also learn how Shane’s father Rob became a Christian and the “dead body” of guilt he carries. It’s just that sort of book in the series – a turning point where some information needs to be shared so that the characters can turn a corner into another phase of the story. But that full story has been teased at multiple times, in comments dropped or brief thoughts or in the flashbacks that are a symptom of Shane’s PTSD. The reader knows some of it before the whole story comes out.

A salient point of Peter’s history in the “What If Wasn’t” series is that his mother sexually molested him and he has never told anyone the full story. Rather than start the book with a backstory dump, I wrote the first scene of Red Kryptonite Curve with Peter coming down off a month of drunken partying across Europe and dreaming about something that happened in the past. His mother touches his chest and … Peter wakes up from the dream and never really revisits the event again during the course of the book. I teased the reader with the backstory, allowing them to draw their own conclusions. The hope is that whenever Peter does something stupid and self-destructive they will remember there is more to the story than even Peter is willing to admit. Right up until the end of Dumpster Fire, he still hasn’t dealt with it and it has brought him to a very horrible place.

Now, I followed a totally different technique for doling out backstory with Alyse, Peter’s sister. She’s cast as something of a sympathetic villain in the first two books, but how did she get there. She was a part of what happened too and and no less touched by their mother than Peter was. In the third book, because she is dead, characters mourning her relive their memories of her life that show how she ended up where she did. Again, it’s just short little fragments that allow the reader to guess at the whole.

Take Your Time

Absolutely we need to deal with the history of our characters because it makes them more multilayered, but we don’t need to give the reader the whole landfill at the beginning of the book. Yes, it feels wonderful to write such great history, but nobody says you have to deliver it all at once. Take your time. Remember the needs of your audience should come before your needs. Yes, your characters have a great backstory, but refrane from having a Forest-Gump-on-the-bus-bench moment at the very start of your book.

Posted January 25, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Tools of the Trade   4 comments

Jan 18, 2021

What software do you use for your writing? Bookkeeping? Artwork? Calendar?

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Writing

I write in Word, but I used to use an open-source word-processing program and will return to that when I no longer get a special discount as part of my day job. Microsoft is very proud of its software, but I don’t agree with monopolies, so I’ll do what I can to encourage its competition. Open Office is accepted by Amazon so it’s a win-win.

Bookkeeping

I currently use Excel. That will go away when that special discount goes away (this is not expected to happen soon, but sometime in the next decade). Open Office has a spreadsheet program, so I’ll probably switch to that.

Artwork

I prefer Paint.net, although sometimes I create drawings in Paint. You really can’t beat Paint.net’s photo editing functions and I mostly use it to create the collages that become my book covers.

Calendar

I frankly still prefer a hard copy calendar I can write on, but since teleworking which has made a transition to working digitally complete, I am now using a digital copy of an open source calendar that I post notes on various dates. I don’t like notifications that pop up all the time and so I flag my future dates on Sticky Notes so I see them whenever I open my laptop’s opening page. As I remove the sticky note, it reveals the photo behind it and I kind of enjoy that process.

Posted January 18, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Not Touching It with a 10-Foot Pole   5 comments

Is there a genre you’d never attempt to write? Why?

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Never Say Never

It’s something my daughter learned as a dancer — never say you can’t do something. George Takei shares the story of being asked to do an episode of Star Trek involving a sword. He’d never fenced in his life, but he wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity to act, so he said he could fence and then ran off to a gym to have someone teach him. My daughter has played a wide variety of musical styles because she’s not said “I don’t know how.” My son was asked to step in as a professional bass guitar player this summer. He didn’t play bass, but he’s a guitarist and the keeper of his sister’s bass, so he spent a week learning how to play bass and then played at several outdoor venues this summer. He also didn’t used to be a singer, but decided to teach himself how to carry a tune last year and now he can and does sing. He’s even sung lead for the band and had the (admittedly somewhat drunk) audience clap for his performance.

Tearing a page from the book of my talented children, I am in a constant quest to teach myself how to write genres I’ve not written before. However, is there a genre I would never try to write?

Erotic fiction

I’ve attempted to write romances and I’m getting better at it. I’ve learned to add elements of something else in so it doesn’t feel so bogus. I’m just not a “they lived happily ever after” kind of writer and that’s my major stumbling block to writing the genre.

But I also don’t write sex.

Why?

My Christian faith is the most important thing in my life, although it is not always front and center of my writing. It infuses every part of my character, so it can’t help but shine through, but I am not writing Christian-genre books for a Christian audience. This means I reference sex (and other bodily functions) and the Christians who appear in my novels aren’t always as pure as the fresh driven snow. I’ve taken some heat for this from judgmental reviewers who feel that humanity has no place in “Christian” literature, but again — I’m not writing Christian-genre books. I am a Christian who writes novels and has some Christian characters in otherwise non-sectarian books.

But there are limits and describing sex is a boundary for me. First, I don’t think it’s necessary for me to write it. There are other authors who can fulfill that market. I’m happy to let them do it. I don’t want to write books that I’d be ashamed to have my pastor’s wife read. Jennifer is a realistic Christian who isn’t one of those upset by my portraying Christians as flawed sinners saved by grace, although I have known other pastors’ wives who held a more Pollyanna-ish view of the world. Still, I suspect she wouldn’t be down for a sex scene. I don’t even need to ask, actually. I know she wouldn’t be down for a sex scene. I like it when my Christian friends say they enjoyed my books, but if a sex scene existed in my book, I’d be embarrassed if Jennifer said she was reading it. So, yeah, not writing it.

The other reason is that I don’t cheat on my husband — not in reality and not in fiction. I try not to read books that ask me to imagine having sex with other men. (Brad repays me for this by not indulging in porn). Erotic literature is the female equivalent of men’s pornographic videos and I don’t recommend either party in a marriage cheat mentally. Every marriage I know of that indulged in mental cheating has ended in divorce, often following an incident of actual cheating. The Bible says the body follows the head, so I try to control where my head leads me. Occasionally, I run across a sex scene in a book where I wasn’t expecting it and I read it, but I don’t seek out that sort of literature. (Brad has a similar attitude toward sex scenes in otherwise entertaining movies.)

Rabbit Trail!

Okay, I have to tell this funny story. Many years ago we were watching a mystery set in a monestary in the Middle Ages “In the Name of the Rose.” It was a great movie — a murder mystery. Except, about halfway through, the young monk played by a teenage Christian Slater engaged in full-on sex with a kitchen wench. There was no reason for it. There was no build up to it and no other plot point revolved around it. It wasn’t in the book that the movie was based on. It was just there to garner an R-rating for a movie that didn’t need it.

It took about two seconds for our group of friends (all from our church) to realize what was going on and then our friend Jeff tried to fast-forward through the scene. This was in the VCR days and it just served to highlight the act playing out on the screen.

I believe Brad is disallowed from choosing videos for group consumption among certain segments of our friends because he picked the video that night. He ranks it as one of the most embarrassing times of his Christian life — the time he brought “a porn video” to Christian group night.

Imagination is Key!

Now imagine writing a sex scene and all the time an author spends getting the scene just right. It would be like doing that scene from “In the Name of the Rose” 20-30 times, replaying it in my head, over and over. I don’t write my husband into my books, so ….

Erotic literature is a genre I’m not going to attempt to write and I’m completely okay with that.

What Else?

I also don’t write horror. I admire the few Christian horror writers out there (Ted Dekker, for example), but I don’t read a lot of horror as a genre, so I don’t really want to write it. But I’m not saying I’d never attempt it, because you should never say never so long as it’s not against your moral code.

Posted January 11, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Ode to the Republic as She Lies Dying   Leave a comment

Ode to the Republic as She Lies Dying

Rioters storm the Capitol and are any of us surprised?

A Banana Republic Sprouts

Image for post

When I wrote this post a few days ago, I was focused on the history — the recognition that banana republic elections tend to spawn banana republic reactions. Violence becomes an inevitable and regrettable “solution” when oppressed minorities perceive no peaceful options remain. The veterans of Athens, Tennessee, had their government stolen from them through fraudulent elections and they sought to require its return. Nobody died, but that was just a happy accident. One reason I don’t condone violence is it has a scary tendency of hurting people who aren’t even involved in the conflict. Had the veterans of Athens stood down and waited for the next election, would things have gotten better? We’ll never know because that’s not what happened. They secured the ballot boxes by violent means and the votes vindicated their actions. I was not calling for violence, merely pointing out that elections that lack transparency set society on fire and that ignoring the right of the people to petition their government for redress of grievances is like spraying gasoline on a bonfire. It could have been avoided by the current sheriff of Athens simply allowing people in to watch as he and his deputies counted the ballots. But then he would have definitely lost and that wasn’t what he was after. So the battle was on.

Parallels then to now are writ in neon

To read more … follow the link.

Posted January 8, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Medium Articles

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Writing to the Rhythm #OpenBook Blog Hop   Leave a comment

Source: Writing to the Rhythm #OpenBook Blog Hop

Posted January 4, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Open Book Blog Hop – 4th January 2021   1 comment

Stevie Turner

Welcome to the first Open Book Blog Hop of 2021. This week the topic is:

‘How do you keep focused during long writing sessions?’

When I started writing novels back in 2013 I could write for hours to the exclusion of everything else. After I had been writing for a year or so I learned that I had to build a writer platform to get noticed. To do this I had to engage on social media with writing groups and other authors, and … reader… that’s where the rot set in.

The little red notifications on Twitter and Facebook and the orange ‘bell’ notification on WordPress meant that there was a new comment to answer. I didn’t want to store them all up and answer them in one long session on social media, and I didn’t want people to think their comments were going unanswered. Therefore I answered comments as…

View original post 491 more words

Posted January 4, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

It’s all about staying focused.   Leave a comment

Richard Dee’s Blog article on writing.

Posted January 4, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Chasing a Deadline   10 comments

How you keep focused during long writing sessions?

Rules:1. Link your blog to this hop.2. Notify your following that you are participating in this blog hop.3. Promise to visit/leave a comment on all participants’ blogs.4. Tweet/or share each person’s blog post. Use #OpenBook when tweeting.5. Put a banner on your blog that you are participating.<!– start InLinkz code –><div class=”inlinkz-widget” data-uuid=”72a04a5213c04127ac40523e651504fd” style=”width:100%;margin:30px 0;background-color:#eceff1;border-radius:7px;text-align:center;font-size:16px;font-family:’Helvetica Neue’,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif”><div style=”padding:8px;”><p style=”margin-bottom:15px;”>You are invited to the <strong>Inlinkz</strong> link party!</p><a href=”https://fresh.inlinkz.com/p/72a04a5213c04127ac40523e651504fd” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow” style=”padding:5px 20px;background:#209cee;text-decoration:none;color:#efefef;border-radius:4px;”>Click here to enter</a></div></div><span style=”display: none;”>http://a%20rel=</span><!– end InLinkz code –>[fresh_inlinkz_code id=”72a04a5213c04127ac40523e651504fd”]https://fresh.inlinkz.com/p/72a04a5213c04127ac40523e651504fd

Who says I stay focused?

No, really. I usually have two or three projects going at once. Focus may not be my thing.

Long Writing Sessions

I have them and they’re almost always character-driven. When a character is telling me his or her story, I write it down and sometimes it is so engrossing I don’t get distracted by other projects.

Those are the best times and distractions aren’t really a problem when that’s happening.

Editing, though?

Those are some long sessions as well and those can be distracting. I enjoy editing in many ways – it’s when the characters allow me to polish their stories to my own purposes (for the most part). But there’s those other projects calling to me, so I need to stay focused in order to get the best results.

How do I do that?

Coffee. A nice pot of coffee and a bit of scone helps. The act of getting up to get it actually gives me short breaks that help me to focus for long hours.

Genre- or scene-appropriate music, through earphones, so I can’t hear the world around me. If I can’t hear the neighbors doing something entertaining or my husband watching a movie or a U-Tube philosophy podcast, I am less likely to get distracted from my work.

A timer. Sometimes I go through periods when I can’t settle down and so if I’m struggling with that, I’ll set a timer on my phone. I say “butt-in-seat-fingers-on-keyboard” until it goes off. I also sometimes use the timer to break up my writing sessions so that I don’t wear myself out.

But Seriously?

I grew up in a small Alaska house where everybody did everything in the main room because the rest of the house wasn’t that warm. I learned early to concentrate even when there is activity around me. I can watch television and write at the same time — depending on what I am writing. I can handle the noise of my family — and in fact, miss it when it’s absent. Distractions are a part of life and sometimes that neighbor doing something entertaining is the kernel of a story idea, so ignoring them might not such a good thing.

Writing takes discipline, but it also takes observing and interacting with life. Sometimes I write for 12 hours straight with only bathroom breaks and maybe making a second pot of coffee. Other times, I write for an hour and then let life draw me away to reality. I let the story dictate what level of discipline I need to exercise in any given day. Right now, I’m trying to write a minimum of a 1000-words per day so I can finish the rough draft of “A Death in Jericho” before the end of January, but I recognize that too much focus on an enjoyable activity can look a little like obsession, so I won’t sweat the word-limit more than absolutely necessary. If I finish the rough draft by February 7, I’ll consider myself well-rounded.

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